Jackie Gleason's Final Florida Home!
When television began in the 1940s, a black & white set (color tv was rare until the mid 1960s) cost over $1,000 and programming was focused on the classical arts which appealed to the few people who could afford the new entertainment. By 1946, there were only 6,000 households in the United States fortunate enough to own a television. But by the early 1950s, 22 million televisions were being watched every evening in homes across America. With the new demographic, programming turned from the elitist educated viewers to the more relaxed average family looking for lighthearted entertainment. One of the most popular television entertainers was comedian and actor Jackie Gleason, lovingly referred to as Mr. Saturday Night. A bigger-than-life, multi-talented showman of stand-up comedy and skits, he also composed his own program theme songs even though he could not read a note of music. He later produced 55 albums and set several Billboard sales records of what he referred to as “vanilla” background music.
Gleason’s popularity was based on two things. His performances and characters were based on what he knew, growing up in Brooklyn, and the instinct that an audience will get bored watching just one character. The Jackie Gleason Show, with the second highest ratings in 1954-1955, was dominated by Jackie, who not only was a huge man, but with an even larger and brash personality. He never rehearsed with the cast, but after watching their rehearsal, he adlibbed his way through the show making each performance a surprise to his director. Song, flashy dance numbers by The June Taylor Dancers, celebrity guests who enjoyed appearing in his comedy routines and the development of special characters such as Ralph Kramden in The Honeymooners skit, Reginald Van Gleason III, Joe the Bartender, The Poor Soul, and Rum Dum kept audiences tuning in. With the popularity of The Honeymooners and the newly developed video taping tools, Gleason was able to film and provide reruns of episodes that continue to be broadcast today.
Until 1964, Gleason’s variety show was recorded with live audiences at Studio 50 in New York City. But then a friend told him he could play golf all year in South Florida so Jackie loaded his cast and crew onto train cars and set off for Miami. There he performed his show at the Miami Beach Auditorium, now the Jackie Gleason Theatre of the Performing Arts, until 1970 when CBS cancelled the show with the goal of producing programming that would appeal to younger audiences. But that didn’t stop Gleason, who went on to make big box office films such as Smokey and the Bandit, The Hustler, for which he received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor and Requiem for a Heavyweight.
Jackie Gleason fell in love with Miami and Miami Beach, its most popular celebrity and staunchest supporter who drew tourists and new residents while spending as many hours on the golf course as possible. In 1965, he bought a home abutting the Country Club of Miami’s golf course in Hialeah. By 1971, Jackie moved a bit north to the Inverrary golf community near Fort Lauderdale where he hosted the PGA Jackie Gleason Inverrary Classic attracting the big name golf pros, celebrities such as Bob Hope and Joe Namath and politicians including Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. It was his last home and where he lived with the one true love of his life, Marilyn Taylor (June Taylor’s little sister), who he fell in love with in the 1950s but couldn’t marry until 1974 due to divorce/marriage restrictions by the Catholic church. Marilyn continued to live in the house for several years after Jackie’s death in 1987, and sold it with the condition that everything in the house would remain, including furniture and Jackie’s personal mementos. The buyer agreed, and now upon his death, the house is once again for sale - almost completely unchanged.
Only a few steps from Inverrary Golf Course, the 4,123-square-foot home has six bedrooms, three bathrooms and Jackie’s famous entertainment room with sunken bar and chairs that fit up to the bar “preventing one from falling off” should they enjoy a little too much. Also included is Jackie’s large library and the huge dining room that Jackie had set up with multiple tables for his guests that overlook the lake. Most of Jackie’s and Marilyn’s furnishings and decor are still intact and the new owner will have the option of preserving the history or creating their own fresh style. The HOA has its own clubhouse and recreational facilities within the private community.
Jackie Gleason would have turned 100 on February 26th. The Great One’s last great party and golf lake home in Lauderhill, Florida is now for sale, priced at $299,000. “How sweet it is!”
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